BOSTON – With Hiroki Kuroda on the mound, the Boston Red Sox gambled when they could on the bases.
It didn’t work. Not much did against Kuroda and the Yankees, as New York took a 5-2 decision Saturday afternoon, before a sold-out Fenway Park crowd of 37,601.
Two Boston runners were thrown out at home plate — Daniel Nava trying to score from second base on a single to left field, and Mike Carp attempting to come home on a wild pitch that didn’t bounce far enough away from catcher Chris Stewart.
“It’s a fine line,” Boston Manager John Farrell said about being aggressive on the bases. “It worked against us a couple times today.
One gamble finally paid off when David Ortiz ran through coach Brian Butterfield’s stop sign and scored on Jonny Gomes’ shallow sacrifice fly to center in the seventh inning.
But that only closed the score to 4-1. Carp did get to score on a wild pitch, to make it 4-2.
But that was all against Kuroda (9-6) and the bullpen, including a save by Mariano Rivera — who got a standing ovation when he came in the game.
Kuroda, 38, finished seven innings, yielding two runs on five hits. His 2.65 ERA ranks behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53) in the American League.
“What was most impressive is, even in that sixth and seventh inning, in these (hot and humid) conditions, he was able to reach back and touch 95, 96 (mph) against the meat of our lineup when he needed it,” Farrell said. “He’s a very good pitcher.”
Kuroda out-dueled Boston’s best pitcher at the moment, John Lackey (7-7). The two were locked in a 0-0 duel until New York pushed across a run in the fifth on Brett Gardner’s eight-pitch, two-out at-bat, resulting in an RBI single.
New York made it a comfortable 4-0 with three runs in the seventh. Lackey left with two on base and the score 2-0. Reliever Matt Thornton allowed both inherited runners to score.
So Lackey gave up four runs on 10 hits, while striking out seven. His ERA, though up to 2.95, is still one of the American League’s best.
“John pitched a very strong six-plus innings for us,” Farrell said. “They strung some hits together, but he stayed away from the big inning until the seventh.”
The loss allows the torrid Tampa Bay Rays to close within 11/2 games of the Red Sox. New York (52-45) closed to within six games of Boston.
The two teams play the deciding game of this three-game series Sunday night at 8.
On Saturday, Boston threatened in the first inning. Nava was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a groundout. David Ortiz singled to left and Nava stumbled coming around third base and was easily thrown out.
In the fifth, New York’s Eduardo Nunez stood on third base with one out. The infield came in and shortstop Stephen Drew fielded Luis Cruz’s grounder and threw out Nunez at home.
But Cruz took second on a wild pitch. Gardner, who fell behind 0-2, kept fouling off pitches until he singled up the middle, scoring Cruz.
In the bottom of the fifth, Carp stood on third and Gomes on second with two outs, and Jose Iglesias up. Kuroda’s pitch got by Stewart, but not to the backstop. He hustled to the ball and threw to Kuroda, who tagged Carp.
Stewart made a sensational play in the eighth, lunging into the stands to catch Dustin Pedroia’s foul popup and then threw out Nava trying to take second.
“Down by two with David (Ortiz) on deck, that’s over-aggressiveness on (Nava’s) part,” Farrell said.
In the ninth, with two Yankees on base, former Sea Dogs lefty Drake Britton was summoned to the mound, making his major league debut. He got Ichiro Suzuki to pop up before Robinson Cano hit a sacrifice fly to center.
Rivera, in his final season, pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing only a single by Carp, who went 3-for-4.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: